The missing pig character Zhu Bajie from a billboard and posters on the Hong Kong fantasy film 'Journey to the West - The Monkey King 2' is because the actor, Xiao Shenyang, is less known in Malaysia, the film distributor has said.
Chinese daily Oriental Daily News quotes GSC Movies distribution manager Hou Xiu Chang as saying that the decision was made based on the business model and actor prominence.
“In Malaysia, many people know Aaron Kwok and Him Law. Initially, we planned to put the characters of the Monkey King or White-Bone Demon on the posters.
“But the film distributor from China could not make it on time to give us the poster,” Hou was quoted as saying, while also admitting that GSC removed Zhu Bajie from the local billboards and posters.
The film features top Hong Kong star Aaron Kwok as the Monkey King, Him Law as Sha Wujing and actor Feng Shaofeng from China as the monk Tang Sanzang.
The half-pig, half-human character Zhu Bajie is played by comedian Xiao Shenyang, who has gained prominence in China since 2009.
'Journey to the West - The Monkey King 2' is based on a renowned classic tale from China and focuses on the White-Bone Demon, who kidnaps the monk because it desires to eat the monk’s flesh.
Malaysians unfamiliar with China actors
Defending the move, Hou said the Malaysian audience is not familiar with film stars from China.
“We must let the movie-goers look at the familiar faces in order to attract them.”
She stressed that film distributor GSC Movies does not have any hidden agenda on keeping Zhu Bajie off the promotional materials.
The Film Censorship Board of Malaysia has approved the poster without any amendment, Hou said.
“In Malaysia, we need to know what we can do and what we cannot. Typically, we will modify a poster before getting the Censorship Board’s approval…
“This time, the board gave its green light when we first submitted the (Monkey King 2) poster.”
Owing to the costs involved, she said, the distributor would not replace the billboard but the posters at the theatres where the movie will be screened would be changed occasionally.
'No interference from the board'
In response, a GSC Movies spokesperson said the film distributor has the right to modify a movie poster to suit the Malaysian taste.
“Just like the other films distributed by GSC Movies, such as 'From Vegas to Macau 3', the Chinese title used here is different from the one used in China,” she told Malaysiakini via e-mail this morning.
The spokesperson said there had been no interference from the Film Censorship Board or the Home Ministry.
“The GSC Movies team did not receive any instruction and the amendment was made for commercial reasons.”
The original poster of the film, by a China and Hong Kong production house, shows the monk Tang Sanzang and his disciples Monkey King Sun Wukong, Sha Wujing and Zhu Bajie.
Zhu Bajie is pictured on the right of the Monkey King in the poster but is missing on the promotional posters, including a billboard erected on Jalan Loke Yew in Kuala Lumpur.
All movies to be screened in Malaysia must first be vetted by the Film Censorship Board.
Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed told Malaysiakini on Sunday that the board makes its decisions “in the best interest of the country, not the movie producer”.
The disappearance of the pig character from the billboard has invited ridicule from netizens, most of whom agree that the removal of the character is a silly act.
The pig is an unclean animal to the Muslim community.